If you are to read one article about zaatar, we would recommend Thyme Travels. It is a lengthy 3700+ word documentary published in the cultural Aramco World magazine by author Alia Ynis, an accomplished professional writer and filmmaker and author of many works including the critically acclaimed novel The Night Counter,
In a charming story telling style, and accompanied by a talented photographer, Ms. Ynis explains what is zaatar, its ingredients, the traditional beliefs on the health benefits of zaatar, the importance of zaatar in the history of Middle East food and culture, how people enjoy zaatar and differences in zaatar mixes and how to use zaatar.
After enjoying this story very much, I ended up frequenting Alia Yni's blog and ordered her novel. She is passionate about the good in Mediterranean living and so gifted to paint and tell it in charming stories. In here work "The Golden Harvest", she describes the heritage of olive oil for example and says "If it were a woman, olive oil would be the Mediterranean’s Scherhazade, the great storyteller. Through hundreds of wars, Biblical times, and the current migrant crisis it has been steadfast, seeping into the culture, economics, history, politics..." I personally think zaatar would be in second place.. what do you think?
Excerpts from Thyme Travels
"We had nothing to eat but za'atar and olive oil" is an expression meaning "we had only our staples." za'tar is also loaded with symbolism and identity, appearing in are and music.. it often stands for inner strength and home. The mixture is finding its way into hip restaurants that draw people with the comfort implied by the word..
"Za'tar can be a very personal thing," says Sanaa with a smile. "It's private. Some people have their own stash of wine; I have my own stash of za'tar."
There is unfortunately no direct translation for za'tar in English, although it is often called wild thyme. "It is a taste more than a species," explains..
"There are 22 herb species referred to as za'tar in the region. It is the essential oils they have in common. They all come from the same Lamiaceae, or mint, family, which includes savory, oregano and thyme. Personally, I can eat za'tar anytime. Za'tar is what opens our palates."